Yesterday I entered a new chapter in my life. Yesterday was the day that I devoted myself fully to my goals, and turned ideas into action steps to help me achieve those goals. One of these action steps came in the form of The Naked Leader, a coaching program with Janelle Fraser. One of the very first things that I learned, and something that is said to be the foundation for all leaders, is that you have to be 100% unapologetically yourself.
“Being a naked leader is defined as someone who purposefully chooses to lead and share a message wilst showing up fully as their true self.” – Janelle Fraser
This concept essentially refers to being open, honest, and vulnerable with your followers. Nobody is perfect, but when you’re running a business, you often feel like you have to portray perfection all of the time to be successful. The concept of the Naked Leader totally challenges that habit to hide the messier side of your life. Instead, it encourages you to OWN the things from your past, present, and future that maybe are not as “polished” as you would like them to be. In honor of this challenge, I wanted to reveal the naked truth that is who I am, and how I got here.
This is most likely about to be a long one, so turn back now unless you want to be in it for the long haul!
Note that any names used will be changed..
We all struggle a bit through adolescence. That goofy, awkward, roller-coaster of emotions time of your life where you are learning and growing as a human being. I had a pretty normal childhood full of ups and downs, and lessons learned. It was at the age of 15 when my life kind of got spun around 360 degrees and flipped upside down.
Age 14 was a tough year for me, because the boyfriend that I was madly in love with “allegedly” cheated on me with another girl. You tend to feel those emotions so powerfully when you are young, so it crushed me. We spent the summer broken up, but things picked back up when we got back to school the following September. That was when I started to change. Prior to that incident, I was pretty much a goody-two-shoes. I didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or even swear. When I allowed myself to go back to my ex, I started changing all of those things about myself gradually to make the relationship work. (If you are doing this – STOP NOW while you have the chance… No relationship worth having should EVER require you replacing good qualities and habits about yourself with bad ones) I wish someone had shared that advice with me because I started drinking, I smoked marijuana, I skipped class, the whole nine yards. It was not a healthy relationship, and the feelings that I felt for him certainly were not reciprocated in the same manner. Instead of being uplifted, I was constantly torn down and made to feel broken and worthless. He never physically laid a hand on me, but sometimes chronic manipulation, lying, and emotional abuse can be just as rough on a person. Eventually the school year ended, and he walked out of my life. The result was a risk-taking, newly single 15 year old ready to finally let loose and have some fun during the summer.
My dad has been a paramedic since I was a little girl, and I remember growing up he would always tell me stories about his work. Specifically stories about the reserve, no doubt trying to warn me of the dangers he had seen and keep me away from it all. As a father, he tried to warn me about drinking and partying in general. I had always heeded his warnings, until that summer. My best friend at the time had moved into a home on the reserve with her father and his girlfriend, and she had told me about a party her friends were having. We plotted a way for me and my step-sister to be able to go to the party without raising suspicion among our parents. My sister’s mom was told she was staying the night at my house, while my mom was told that we were both staying the night at Ashley’s house. Of course both of our mothers were told that her parents would be around for supervision. It was a pretty classic scenario, so I am sure that you have already guessed by this point that there were no parents present that weekend. Our plan worked perfectly, and we went off to Ashley’s house to get ready for the party. The first several hours were actually really fun, and I started to think that my dad had been wrong. Everyone had been really nice and accepting, for the most part.
My sister ended up drinking a little too much that night, to a point where she actually made me chase her out into a field when it came time to get her to go back to the house and call it a night. Whenever a friend gets too drunk, I think it is almost a natural instinct for us to cut back and take care of them instead of getting inebriated ourselves. That is what I chose to do that night. When I finally rounded her up, I found Ashley and her cousin and prepared to go back to the house. Ashley had a crush on one of the guys from the party, so she brought him and his friend back to the house to continue hanging out. Everything was fine at first, but once people started going to bed, everything changed. My sister had passed out on the bed, I was on the bed beside her, and the friend of Ashley’s date was beside me. When the other three left the room, it was just him and I left awake. He was drunk, so naturally when left alone with a girl, he made his move. At first I didn’t mind, we fooled around around for a bit because it felt nice to be kissed again. It didn’t take long for that to change though, and the requests for more started. It basically began by being told to take off my pants, and I kept insisting that I wouldn’t. I said my sister was right beside us and would wake up as an excuse. He tried to get me to go in another room, but I refused to do that too. Eventually it got more insistent, and he said if I didn’t take my pants off, he would. I continued to refuse, because I had no intentions of sleeping with anyone that night. He followed through with his statement though, and as it started, I laid on the bed motionless, crying, mumbling “no” over and over again, and just waited until it was over. When he was finished, he pretty much just got up from the bed, got dressed, and left the room without saying a word.
I know exactly what you’re probably thinking, because it was a running inner monologue of mine for a long time. Why didn’t you fight him off? Why didn’t you scream for help? Why didn’t you make more of an effort to stop this from happening? My honest to god answer is this – I don’t know. I had so many things running through my head that night. The biggest thought process of all was my father’s stories about the reserve, what he had seen, what the men can be like, the abuse, the murders and assaults, and more. I’ve grown up now, and I recognize fully that they are not all like that, but at the time I just kept thinking about those stories and how I didn’t want to be one of the girls picked up in an ambulance beaten to a bloody pulp. I was afraid of what might happen if I did resist and fight. I didn’t think this guy was abusive, but then again, I was 15 and I had literally just met him that night. I wasn’t exactly in a good position to make that kind of judgment call. I had my sister to think about too, who was lying beside us totally dead to the world from drinking too much, and I didn’t want her to get hurt too. So I made a choice. I made a choice to just stay still and wait. Maybe everything would have been fine had I made more of an effort, or maybe I would have been driven to the hospital in an ambulance and not my mother’s car. That is something that I will never know.
I told my sister about what happened the next day, and we went back to my house. I struggled with the decision as to whether or not I should tell anyone. I really didn’t want to tell anyone else because I felt responsible for what happened to me. I didn’t feel like I could call it rape, because I had been fooling around with him first. I felt like I had brought it on myself, and that it was my fault for getting his hopes up in that way and expecting him not to follow through. By some stroke of what I thought at the time to be sheer luck, my uncle stopped by the house while my mom was out. I thought, “if I just tell him what happened, I can ask him to keep my secret.” It was pretty freakin’ naive, but at the time I was desperate, and he was my only hope to get the morning after pill. I was terrified to death of pregnancy and STD’s. As soon as my mom came home, my uncle left the house and met her on the walkway. The look on her face as she walked through the door with tears running down her cheeks still breaks my heart today.
What came next was a visit to the hospital, where my mom told my dad, and my dad told my grandparents, and I ended up in a hospital room with most of my immediate family. It was awkward, uncomfortable, and humiliating. I hated every second of it. I had a hard time filing the report with the police because I had to admit to my family that I had been fooling around with him first. I blamed myself, so I expected them to do the same. They didn’t. Next I was poked and prodded by the nurses as they performed a rape kit, extracted about 10 vials of blood for testing, and shot a massive needle into my butt that hurt like hell and burned so badly that it made me scream loud enough that my family could hear me in the hallway. The whole experience was just painful in more ways than one for my entire family. Beyond that, I was given a huge bag full of medications that I needed to take to help reduce my risk for contracting HIV. Testing had to be done in another 6 months to be fully sure, so I had to ensure several months of the unknown and worrying as well.
When I went back home, everything seemed different. My parents were on edge and understandably overprotective, so it made it difficult for me to interact with my friends. It really didn’t help matters that my closest friends at the time were male, and my parents viewed all guys in my life as the devil. Ashley was no longer my friend because my mom had told her parents about what had happened, and it had gotten her into trouble. Along with her and her entire family, a lot of people thought that I had made the whole thing up. They thought that my behavior was not that of a person who had just been raped, because if I had really been through that, I wouldn’t be comfortable hanging out with my guy friends. I knew them and trusted I them, so I was not scared of them. They knew about what happened, and they supported me through it when my girl friends laid blame, labelled me as a lying slut, and abandoned me. Ashley and I made up years later, and she understood after I explained all that I had been subjected to after that night. It is not something that a girl takes lightly. I encourage you to think about that next time you wonder whether or not to believe a rape report.
A week after the party, we heard noise coming from our back yard. A friend of my mothers was here, so we sent him out to check it out. It was a group of natives, and they were vandalizing a vehicle in our back yard. In all of the time that we had lived in this house prior to that summer, and all the time spent in that home after that single incident, we have lived there without anything like that happening again. I will never know for sure, but at the time, I took it as a threat and a warning. It scared me to death. I decided not to pursue charges partly out of fear, but also because I still believed that I was to blame. Regardless, I couldn’t stand the thought of going back to school and having to face him, all of the other natives, and his many friends who would most likely believe him over me. I thought for sure that I would end up getting beaten up at school, and I refused to go back. My mom sent a letter to the other high school in our little town, and luckily they accepted me as a transfer student against their regulations due to the circumstances.
The very first week at my new school, I made friends with the kind of kids that parents don’t approve of… for obvious reasons. The kind that do drugs, skip school, and party. I remember the very first night that I met them, and it was at our local carnival that takes place at the end of every summer vacation. I had been offered drugs that afternoon and had turned it down, but I later saw a group of people associated with the guy who had sexually assaulted me earlier that summer. I panicked, and I started to lose my mind a little bit. I sent my sister to investigate and verify that he wasn’t there, and I ended up agreeing to take my very first ecstasy pill to calm my nerves and try to have a good night. From that point forward I spent about 6 months of grade 11 high on weed or ecstasy, drunk, or a combination of both. It made me feel better, or at least I thought it did for a while. All it really did was make me forget, and give me a false sense of happiness for several hours until the crash. My solution to that was to just do it again the next day to keep it going. At one point down the line, I was offered some acid. I accepted, and ended up taking 4 hits of acid in one night. I am pretty sure my eyes remained open and unblinking for over 10 hours by the pain I felt the following day. I absolutely loved being on acid, even more than I enjoyed ecstasy, so I knew that I could never touch it again or I would become hooked to that too. It wasn’t too long after that night that the nightmares began. I had not had a bad trip while on acid, but apparently that doesn’t matter. Acid can leave its mark on you long after the initial dose. For about a month straight, I had to sleep with the light on because I would wake up petrified from the nightmares of what seemed to be of a bad acid trip. I would be hanging upside down from the ceiling unable to move. I would be seemingly glued to place on the bed as ghost-like forms lunged at my face. Basically all of the crazy stuff that a young person fears during the night when the lights are off is exactly what would appear in my head while I slept. It was extremely vivid.
This is another turning point in my life. I started to really think about where I was and what I was doing to myself. I started wondering, what if this is God sending me a message and telling me that I need to stop doing drugs. Please note that I do not identify myself with any particular religion, so I am not trying to preach to you about God. Regardless of my beliefs or non-beliefs, I thought of these nightmares as being a bad omen. I decided that the drugs needed to come to a stop.
Unfortunately for me, I did not decide to stop drinking, and I continued to hang out with the same crowd of people. One night I was at a party drinking, and I had consumed a large cooler (basically a cooler the size of a wine bottle) and 1 mixed drink with rum. By this point, I had obviously become accustomed to drinking alcohol, and I had built up quite a tolerance for the stuff. Those coolers were basically juice for me, and for someone who typically just did shots and drank hard stuff from the bottle, 1 mixed drink didn’t do much damage either. I remember sitting on the couch having a conversation with my cousins boyfriend, feeling fine and having a great time. I finished up that drink, and he offered to get me another. He came back with my drink and we continued to talk as I drank it. I don’t really know if I ever finished that drink, because everything from that point on is pretty hazy despite it being so early in the evening. I remember him helping me to the bathroom, and holding my hair as I threw up. I vaguely remember him helping me to a bed in a bedroom, and then offering to get me water. Everything beyond him leaving the room is a mystery.
I was woken up really early in the morning by my friend saying that I needed to go home because I was in his bed. I groggily got up, got my things, and went out to the cab. I turned on my laptop when I got home to check Facebook, and I had a large amount of messages from my cousin. She was livid, and was accusing me of having slept with her boyfriend. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she said people from the party had told her. I sent a message to the friends of mine that had hosted the party and I asked him what had happened. He told me that it was true, and that the guy had been bragging about it. My cousin said one of the girls at the party told her I bragged about it too (but the source was a girl that didn’t like me to begin with, so I don’t know for sure if I did get up from the bed at some point through the night to talk to people or not). When I went to get undressed to put my pajamas on and go back to sleep, I found a large amount of dark blood on my underwear. I didn’t think that it was the right time for my period, and when I felt the soreness the next morning, I had to face facts. At that point, I knew it was true. This time I didn’t tell anyone, I just went to the clinic on my university campus to have tests run. The bleeding continued, and I was told that the guy that night must have been very rough because it had caused damage internally that was made evident from the discoloration of the blood. I blamed myself again, because I was the one that had made the choices that had ultimately led me to that moment. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it is very likely that I was drugged. I knew from the start that something about that night just didn’t make sense, but I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it until I learned in one of my psychology classes about the date rape drugs and their effects. Much like the last time that this kind of thing had happened, I still considered myself to be at fault, so this time I kept the whole thing to myself. I didn’t report it to the police or tell my family. I hadn’t gotten pregnant or contracted any STD’s, so I just dealt with the bleeding on my own and tried my best to act like it hadn’t happened.
It is kind of ironic actually. When I was assaulted the first time, it led me to the darkness. This time, it brought me out into the light, because it gave me the strength that I needed to finally put an end to my destructive behavior. I quit drinking cold-turkey, and I cut ties with most of my “friends”. I use quotation marks because for the most part, once I quit drinking and partying, they really didn’t seem to care about me or want to spend time with me anyway. I started focusing on my school work, and I turned the second half of grade 11 around to a point where I was getting mostly 80’s and 90’s. I was isolated though, and very damaged, so the depression sunk in. I started to supplement my feelings with food, and I would eat junk food constantly in an attempt to make myself feel better. I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food, and the result was rapid weight gain, which ultimately led to more depression, and more junk food consumption, and the cycle continued on and on and on. I pretty much spent that second half of grade 11, and my entire graduation year, isolated and alone.
I did very well in school that last year, and I did it without touching a drop of alcohol. I decided that I wanted to go to law school to become a prosecutor so that I could make a difference by putting away the bad guys. Since I spent my weekends alone, I developed an obsession with Criminal Minds reruns that played pretty much non-stop each weekend along with CSI. I bought the entire collection on Ebay, and binge watched the entire series. I decided that I wanted to become the Canadian version of a profiler, which, much to my surprise, actually does exist within the RCMP under the title “Criminal Investigative Analyst”. I spent grade 12 working towards getting into the school that I had chosen, and I did get in. From that point forward, I was focused entirely on getting what I wanted. I knocked all basic requirements out first year, and the next year was split equally between Criminology and Psychology. Third year was spent fulfilling requirements for the honours program and additional Criminology and Psychology requirements, and fourth year was spent finalizing all requirements needed for my double major and honours in Criminology. In the end, I made it out alive and graduated with honours in distinction. My studies in these subjects taught me a lot about myself, my circumstances, and society. Unfortunately, the world we live in appears to have made victim-blaming so commonplace that most women and girls that are victimized automatically begin the line of thinking that they must have done something to deserve it. Maybe they think their outfit was too revealing, or like me their earlier actions suggested consent. What I have learned is that it was NOT my fault. It was NOT okay for someone to continue once the word “no” had been uttered even once, let alone numerous times. It was NOT okay for someone to have rough sex with a person that had thrown up and then needed to be put into bed with a glass of water. It was NOT okay for people to put the blame on me. It was NOT okay for those guys to take what they wanted from me and leave me to pick up the pieces of my broken life. Most importantly, I learned that I would be okay. I always wanted to someday tell this story to the world in an attempt to hopefully help others going through similar circumstances to learn these important facts for themselves, and I just now mustered the courage.
Toward the end of my third year of my degree I made a life-changing decision. I decided that I was going to take my life back, and that I was not going to allow my life to be dictated by my past. I decided that I refused to spend my grad year of university the way that I had spent my grad year of high school. I was miserable, alone, and just totally defeated back then. I set to work immediately after school ended that third year, and I began P90X. This Beachbody program helped me change my habits. I worked out 6 days a week for 6 full months with that program, and I ate clean through the duration of that period as well. When I finished that, I tried Turbo Fire, then Les Mills PUMP, and so on. By the time that I got back into school for my grad year, I was feeling so much better about myself as a person. I was happier, I was getting my confidence back, and I was pushing myself to talk to people and make friends. I did go out to grad events that year, and I had fun and made memories this time. All of this helped me come to the realization that my desire to be a prosecutor or in the RCMP really wasn’t about the job itself. It was about getting revenge on the people that had hurt me by putting away other bad guys in their place. To take those kinds of positions would have been focusing on a life of negativity. I would have been constantly surrounded by terrible acts of abuse, and I would have to live with that burden on top of that which I already bear. When I came to this realization, I decided that I was better off choosing a different path.
I decided to skip grad school. I became a Beachbody Coach to help motivate and encourage others to achieve results like I had. I later joined Younique because I fell in love with their makeup. I’ve since been on a backpacking trip where I explored Barcelona, Paris, and London. I’ve been to Chicago, Vegas, and California, and I have trips planned to Nashville and St. Louis next summer. I have had so much positivity come into my life since making the decision to let go of my past, and I just have to keep reminding myself of this every time that I slide backwards.
Now you may be curious about the whole cold-turkey alcohol situation. I quit halfway through grade 11, and I did not touch alcohol until a few months into my first year of university. The impact that it has had on my behavior is huge though. I am very conscious of what I am drinking and how much I am drinking while I am out. If I am out with people I am not 100% sure I can trust, I make sure to stay sober enough to handle myself should a tough situation come about (it helps now that I have Les Mills COMBAT under my belt lol). I NEVER allow anyone but a bartender or significant other to provide me with a drink while out. I tend to just totally ignore all men while at a bar, unless I went there with them or I know them already. I stick to the buddy system and always go out drinking with a friend, or don’t go at all. I am sure there are more weird little quirks, but ladies, regardless of whether or not you’ve been assaulted, you should all be doing these things to protect yourself. We shouldn’t have to – but this is the world that we live in, so we need to take precautions while we work and fight for change.
The impact that this has had on my relationships has been pretty powerful as well. Men tend to not be a fan of my perspective, so I guess in a way it is a good thing, because it weeds out the unworthy. I will not sleep with people until we are in a committed relationship, or have at least been dating for a while. The point is this: I’ve gotten to know them, I have come to trust them, and I can see the potential for a future with them. I once had a guy respond to this rule with “you don’t buy a car without test driving it first”, but in my case, yes you do. Needless to say, this guy is no longer a part of my world. Our happiness is not defined by having a man in our life. I have come to learn that if they can’t handle me needing time and space to get to know them and trust them before getting intimate in that way, then they don’t deserve to be in my life in the first place. I would rather be single, working on my own personal development, growing my businesses, and creating a life of happiness for myself than be in an unhealthy relationship that is going nowhere.
I am human. I am flawed. I am far from perfect. I have made terrible decisions that have had very bad consequences, and I know that I will make more bad choices throughout my lifetime. I can’t say that I regret any of the choices that I have made in my past, because it has led me to who I am in the present. Who I am is a good person that has had a few hurdles thrown in her path. I am also a person that deserves to be happy, and I am ready to do whatever it takes to create that for myself, no matter how many hurdles I have to knock over to get there. No more hiding. No more keeping secrets. It is time to lay it all out there so that I can finally move past this and get started on my future.
If you are struggling with being a victim of sexual assault, I strongly encourage you to talk to someone. Anyone. You NEED to get this off your chest. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone in your life, please write to me. Use the contact page here on my blog, and reach out to me. I promise that I will talk to you, and do my best to help you through this. If you are struggling with a drug problem, regardless of the type, and regardless of how far along you are, I encourage you to STOP if you can. If you are too far along and you physically can’t do it yourself, I encourage you to do the same. Reach out to someone for help, even if that someone is me. If you are struggling with depression due to body issues or anything else, I encourage you to get help as well. Again, reach out to me if necessary. You can’t do this on your own. I had a lot of help along the way from my loving and supportive family, and I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without them in my life. You need someone to be in your corner, and if you don’t have anyone else, please let me be in your corner to help you get through this.
One of the reasons why I am SO passionate about Younique is because of what they stand for and what they support. Our mission statement is to Uplift. Empower. Validate. I just love that. Our goal is to be women supporting other women, making them feel amazing and beautiful, and most of all, making them feel like they are worth it. YOU are worth it. Younique has created a foundation to support survivors of sexual abuse, and it is a very powerful and empowering initiative that just fills my heart with that much more love for this company. As I mentioned before, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Younique Convention in Chicago, IL. Prior to our convention, Younique challenged everyone to submit a video lip syncing to the super-powerful Fight Song by Rachel Platten. A select few of these videos were clipped and made into a video that was shown at convention. On top of everything else, this was beautiful and it certainly brought tears to my eyes. Check it out:
You are not alone, and you will get through this.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading. If my story helps even just one person, it will be worth it. Please know that this is not a cry for attention, nor is it an attempt to point fingers at the two men. All of this is behind me now, and I simply want anyone else struggling with these issues to see that you CAN turn things around.